First Look: Clandestino

Not your abuela’s tacos


Clandestino’s chilaquiles with a fried egg (Photo by Sara Palma / @palmstudi0)

Life is negotiating a balance of opposing forces, day and night, corn and flour, family time and a nightlife. Clandestino, a new food trailer from Alejandro Macias and his wife, Jennifer Camacho, is an expression of the party-time side of their personalities. Clandestino adds a killer norteño-style late-night dining option at the Hotel Vegas and Volstead compound. The name means "illegal" or "clandestine," a nod to Macias' history as a back-of-the-house worker himself operating under "an illegal veil," as he puts it.

"Our menu showcases what we grew up eating and what we enjoyed eating after a night out. We want to offer rotating items and take it back to the carne asada basics, border food such as burritos, tostitos preparados, and rusas [fruit punch with grapefruit soda]. We're also interested in making torta burgers on a seasonal basis," say Macias and Camacho.

The couple first established a name for themselves as Qué Sazón Foods, hanging a banner at the Mueller farmers' market in 2021, selling chilaquiles and salsas (some of the best I've had). Their salsa verde is a true work of art.

"We created Clandestino to reconcile the fact that we are a young Latino couple that has a traditional family side but we also have our Chicano identity that allows us to thrive in this fast-moving city. Qué Sazón at the farmers' market is our family-focused concept that highlights the nostalgia for our abuela's sazón. Clandestino is our rowdier side," the couple explains.

“Qué Sazón at the farmers’ market is our family-focused concept that highlights the nostalgia for our abuela’s sazón. Clandestino is our rowdier side.” – Owners Alejandro Macias and Jennifer Camacho

That rowdiness manifests in a rich and succulent birria quesadilla; simple, but with a deft balance of meat and quesadilla cheese (similar to Monterey Jack) on a well-griddled flour tortilla. There are tacos campechanos – minced sirloin and pork adobado, pork typically marinated in red chile, vinegar, and oregano – and tacos costras, a blister of griddled cheese encapsulating the filling. You can't really go wrong ordering most tacos this style. An ice-cold Mexican-style lager is highly recommended before, during, and after, but of course not a requirement.

At brunch, the chilaquiles were just as comforting as I remembered them from Qué Sazón, and a salve to my previous night's shenanigans. Crisp, thick, hand-fried corn chips tossed in their fiery salsa verde rest atop excellent refried black beans, sprinkled with cotija cheese and crema, onion, and cilantro. I added a fried egg and it was hearty and filling enough, but there are also meat additions available. There's also a brunch-only migas burrito.

Clandestino is party food, yes, but it is put out with thought, care, and well-crafted execution. That Macias and Camacho are able to open a passion concept like this in a city that is rapidly becoming untenable for those who make and eat fare like Clandestino's is a testament to their dedication and hard work.

For the time being, they are limited to serving inside Hotel Vegas' large patio, but they are working to open the window facing the street side to serve customers not attending shows.

"Owning a food truck was always our next step and we jumped at the opportunity to offer our food at Hotel Vegas and Volstead," they say. "We know that the taco is king in Austin, and we wanted to bridge the gap between what Americans know as bar food versus what we grew up eating after la peda."


Clandestino

1502 E. Sixth (inside Hotel Vegas)
Thu., 6pm-12mid; Fri., 6pm-1:30am; Sat., 3pm-1:30am; Sun., noon-6pm
instagram.com/clandestino.atx

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Clandestino, Alejandro Macias, Jennifer Camacho, Que Sazon Foods, Hotel Vegas

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